Worcester Prove A Sauce Of Frustration For Mis-Firing Hatters
The Hatters began a run of three consecutive September Saturday games at Edgeley Park with a performance that, while dominant in possession for significant spells of the game, ultimately lacked the cutting edge necessary to achieve a first home victory since the opening day of the season.
The build-up to this match was blighted - just as County's Bank Holiday Monday journey towards Fylde had been - by an incident leading to a nearby motorway closure. On this occasion, however, disruption on the M56, close to Manchester Airport, did not hamper the visiting team's travel-plans, and kick-off proceeded at the usual time.
When the teams took to the field, they were accompanied by what could now be more officially considered an adopted County song. Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron's lyrics - suitably amended in celebration of the 1972/73 League Cup run, featuring wins against top-flight ‘Palace - and West Ham, too (thank you!)' - have been sung by many Hatters over the years, although it might have been the first time that some would have heard the original version by The Royal Guardsmen.
Neil Young shuffled his starting line-up again, to produce four changes from that at Fylde. Abs Baggie was ruled out with his continuing hamstring problem, while Sean O'Hanlon missed a League match for the first time due to a back injury, and both Lamin Colley and Karl Ledsham dropped to the bench. Jordan Thorniley, Lewis Montrose, Micah Evans and Calum Dyson were the players to return in their places - and Sefton Gonzales, after being rested for the Fylde game, was also named among the substitutes. Gareth Roberts donned the Captain's armband for the afternoon, in O'Hanlon's absence.
Worcester, struggling at the wrong end of the table - and having conceded an average of more than two goals per match to date - were without three suspended players, but did hand an immediate full debut to Lee Hughes, who had signed for City earlier in the week from Ilkeston. Worcester's starters also included a former Hatter in Danny Jackman, although it was with some horror that the County faithful realised a whole decade had passed since he last plied his trade at EP!
The Hatters set off to impose themselves on proceedings without delay - and, with Glenn Rule and Montrose pulling the strings to great effect in midfield, were to enjoy much of the first-half territorial domination, as well as creating a number of neat passing moves. To begin with, however, this did little by way of applying pressure in the final third - with the only shots mustered being from distance. One by Rule presented Nathan Vaughan, in the visiting goal, with a straightforward catch, while Montrose, subsequently, fired an effort high into the Cheadle End.
Dyson looked to be County's most likely candidate to break the deadlock ahead of the interval - and, having cut in and fired towards goal from the right, forced Vaughan into arching himself back and tipping the shot over.
Vaughan was to remain the busier ‘keeper for most of the game - although, in truth, that was to prove the one occasion on which he was seriously tested beyond his everyday capability. Danny Hurst, incidentally, had few saves of any description to make all afternoon. Having received the good news earlier in the day that his red card for handling against Stalybridge was being rescinded, he did, however, cause the County faithful to hold its collective breath whenever he approached the very outer limits of his box to claim a loose ball. (Not that it needed to, mind. The footwork of County's Number One was, thankfully, impeccable!)
Vaughan was again to deny Dyson with a more routine save of a shot from just inside the City box, and the Everton Youth-loanee also headed over following a cross from the right by Danny Morton. Worcester threatened rarely - although Dan Nti conjured up a half-volley that flew high and wide of County's goal.
Jackman, while playing tidily, had done little to suggest that he had come back to haunt his former club. Indeed, his one act of any real note had been delivering a free kick that gently wafted its way into Hurst's arms. The ex-Hatter did, however, make a more telling contribution when, following the fifth County corner of the half, he headed away from beyond the far post a well-placed Paul Connolly header.
The Hatters had been so monopolizing the corner-count, that the visitors were only awarded their first such kick as added time was announced. This, like County's most recent one, was met by a header - albeit an effort, by Kieran Morris, that cleared the bar by some distance.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Worcester 0.
Worcester made a greater impression on the game as it resumed, and it was rather against the run of play when County created the second half's initial goal-scoring chance. An excellent run by Montrose on the left flank found Jake Kirby in a similar position within the opposition area from which the loanee from Tranmere had hit the dramatic late winner at Fylde five days earlier - but, on this occasion, his shot was parried away by Vaughan.
Hughes was experiencing a relatively quiet afternoon for his new team - although did come close to causing a commotion when his innocuous-looking cross from the right took an awkward bounce, and had to be scrambled beyond the far post by Hurst.
Just as Dyson had been ahead of the break, Kirby was denied on a second occasion at the hands of Vaughan, after shooting from just inside the Worcester box. The ball then fell to Dyson, whose cross from the left was flicked out by the visiting ‘keeper and away from the on-rushing Kayode Odejayi. The latter had launched the original counter-attack with a surging run from the halfway-line that played in Kirby, so a goal for Big Kay at the very end of the sequence would have been more than fitting - but it was beginning, alas, to feel like one of those days...
As the minutes ticked by, many of the game's remaining opportunities involved crosses that were potentially threatening, but follow-up headers that were not: Nikolai Todorov glanced an effort wide of the far post from a cross by his Captain on the left - and Troy's brother - Ellis Deeney; Montrose nodded a Dyson delivery from the right straight at Vaughan; and Thorniley, lurking at the back post, twice got his head to the ball following corners, but on each occasion saw the ball pass the woodwork. In between these efforts, Dyson had temporarily interrupted the pattern by using a foot - only to see his low drive from fifteen yards fizz narrowly past the left upright.
It had been an afternoon neither high on drama nor on foul play. But, in the dying seconds of added time, Colley, who had been on the pitch for fewer than ten minutes, inexplicably lashed out at Alex Gudger off the ball, and was promptly shown a straight red card. A three-match ban will be bound to follow - adding to that which Rule begins at EP a week today.
The Hatters remain fourth, with Brackley up here next. Knowing that ‘The Saints Are Coming', you can be sure that we will be going all out to put the... erm, Skids under them.
FULL-TIME: County 0, Worcester 0.
Team: Hurst, Morton, Roberts, Thorniley, Connolly, Rule, Dyson, Montrose, Odejayi (Colley, 85), Evans (Gonzales, 57), Kirby.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Ledsham, Ellison.
Sent Off: Colley.
Man of the Match: Dyson.
Attendance: 3,098 (25 away).
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